Nausea and Vomiting

Chemotherapy can affect the stomach, causing nausea, and/or the area of the brain that controls vomiting. Hormone treatment can also cause nausea; however, it is rarely severe enough to cause vomiting. Usually, nausea only lasts the first few weeks of treatment. The body’s reaction to chemotherapy varies by person and often depends on the type of medication received for treatment. Some people experience these side effects shortly after treatment, while for others they start a few days later.

Nausea Medications

Nausea and vomiting can usually be managed with a range of medications called antiemetics. Different medicines may be used for immediate and delayed nausea and vomiting. It may be necessary to use more than one to get relief. It can be frustrating to find the right combination, but don't give up. Work with your healthcare team to find the medication(s) that works best for you.

The doctor will likely prescribe medication(s) to help with these side effects at the start of chemotherapy. Begin taking it on a regular basis, before vomiting or nausea starts.

Tell the doctor or nurse if you become extremely nauseated, vomit for longer than one day, or cannot keep liquids down.

Tips for Managing Nausea

  • Eat small meals throughout the day, instead three large ones.
  • Prepare and freeze meals in advance for days when you don’t feel like cooking.
  • Eat high-calorie, high-protein foods.
  • Steer clear of sweet, fried, spicy or fatty foods.
  • Eat foods cold or at room temperature if strong smells bother you.
  • Try eating dry, bland foods like cereal, toast or crackers if you have nausea.
  • Drink small amounts of liquid with meals.
  • Drink cool, clear, unsweetened fruit juices, such as apple or grape juice, or light-colored sodas, such as ginger ale, that have lost their fizz.
  • Drink nutritional supplements, if you are unable to eat food.
  • Suck on ice cubes, mints or hard candies.
  • Eat ginger chews, which may bring relief.
  • Try to avoid odors that bother you, such as cooking smells, smoke or perfume.
  • Relax and breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Rest in a comfortable position and try to sleep through the time nausea is typically present.
  • Distract yourself by chatting with friends or family members, listening to music or watching a movie or TV show.
  • Walk or engage in mild exercise.